Sunday, 20 January 2013

Panic in the Streets (1950)

Panic in the Streets PosterTHE FILM:
I wish there was more to tell about the making of Panic in the Streets, however it's just one of those films that never received the attention that it deserved. It was critically well received  and it even one an Academy Award for having the best story of 1950. Of course, best story is no longer even a category at the Academy Awards. However, Panic in the Streets was a box office failure. The budget was $1,400,000 and the film itself failed to make as much money as its budget, making it officially, a box office flop. Panic in the Streets brought the film debut of Jack Palance as a lead role of the villainInterestingly  there is a sequence near the end where Jack Palance climbs boat rope, this stunt was done by Jack Palance himself after two stunt men failed to succeed.

A body is found dead on the docks of New Orleans. He was killed by a gun, there's no doubt about it. The police surgeon while operating on the corpse to look for clues discovers something very interesting. It seems something strange has happened to the body. A military doctor named Clinton Reed is sent in to examine the body and analyze it's bizarre symptoms. It's revealed that this man has pneumonic plague, a highly contagious and fatal disease. This is fine since the man is dead, except for the fact that whoever was in contact with the dead man could be in grave danger from the disease - and that includes the murderer! 

Clinton Reed is in a desperate need to find the murderer before he is able to spread the disease around the city. As the audience, we know the murder is a man who goes by the name Blackie. We also know that Blackie is unaware of the disease and while is he is trying to escape, little does he know he's escaping from the only people capable of saving him.


There's a reason this one best story, as the plot itself was sheer genius. It's executed in a fast-paced and suspenseful manner that keeps you at the edge of your seat. A problem with the writing itself is the characters. They seem to be genuinely great people or genuinely evil people. It seems like in Panic in the Streets you can take on look at a person and absolutely understand them.

I have never been to New Orleans, but this is the way I think it would be. I have seen multiple films set in New Orleans, but no film truly takes on the city like Panic in the Streets. No, its not a particularly flattering perspective of the city, yet it feels like a very realistic one. Still, it takes a fair bit for a film to make its vision of a city more memorable than any other film.

Richard Widmark  plays a typical  hero. He's a genuine hero... because they needed somebody to play that part in the film. He is very inhuman  The same can be said for Jack Palance's character. He plays Blackie, a man who is a criminal and he fits no other label.

Panic in the Streets works as an intense and suspenseful thriller, but if you try to analyze it... it falls apart.

Panic in the Streets,
Directed by Elia Kazan,
Starring: Richard Widmark, Jack Palance and Barbra Bel Geddes
9/10 (A)

1. Panic in the Streets
2. Splendor in the Grass

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